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Subsidence risk after long, hot and dry summer

A long, hot and dry summer means one thing to property insurers...subsidence!

2018 has seen a surge in reported claims up 400% over 2017. Since the long, hot summer of 1976, there have been two major subsidence surges - 1997 and 2003 where the number of notifications peaked at over 50,000, according to the ABI.

To put this in perspective in 2017 there were just over 12,000 new claims notified and estimates predict that 2018 notifications will rise to over 20,000.

Rainfall across most of the country has still not returned to normal levels and the conditions that lead to increases in subsidence claims have not eased. Subsidence claims are usually associated with the clay belt that sits across the South East of England. Clay is found elsewhere in the UK too and claims have also come from a much wider geographical area than usual.

Clay itself is not the problem - if clay beneath a house shrinks the whole property might settle but it usually does so evenly across its footprint unless other factors are present. These include vegetation, modern extensions built to inadequate standards or water leaking into foundations from collapsed drains.

Trees are biological water pumps and their extensive roots remain the number one cause of subsidence. Poplars, willows and oaks are amoungst the worst culprits as they have long root structures for over 30 metres and can soak up more than 50,000 litres out of the ground each year.

The methods and techniques deployed in investigating, monitoring and remedying subsidence claims have changed significantly in recent years. From monitoring using tell tale signs which allowed policyholders to see for themselves recorded movement, these systems have ben replaced by sophisticated digital tools which generate far more data on movement and other variables. This data goes straight to engineers, adjusters and insurers who decide on the most appropriate way of remedying the damage.

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